This adventure should take several sessions and take the PCs across several hundred years and all around the world. There are multiple factors at play and so players should be given the time they need to unravel events and plan their actions, without rushing into actions which would cause them to loose chronal stability.
For further information about the background of the setting you can obtain the draft rules by supporting the Kickstarter.
On June 20th, 1887, Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Tours give a command performance to royalty from across Europe. Something goes terribly wrong and several historical figures are shot and killed,including Queen Victoria’s grandson George Albert (later King George V) and Kaiser Wilhelm II. Western history is thrown into chaos.
The most puzzling aspect is that a newspaper obtained from the period indicates that Sherlock Holmes was present and helping the police with their investigation. Somehow Sherlock Holmes has become a real person, predating the publication of his first story ‘A Study In Scarlet’ by a year.
Unravelling events reveals that events were put in motion back in the 17th century. A colony of Ezeru had established themselves in 1693 Bengal, planning to infiltrate and engineer a nuclear conflict between India and Pakistan by the late 20th century. For their long wait they’d brought with them radioactive metal that provides them with the background radiation levels they thrive in.
While they hibernated their lair was discovered by Armenian merchants who mistook the metal for coins and the Ezeru eggs for precious stones. They took this ‘treasure’ and left on the merchant vessel Quedagh Merchant. Unfortunately they were captured by the pirate Captain Kidd.
Realising the cursed nature of the treasure Captain Kidd buried it on Oak island in Nova Scotia, as deep as he could. It would not be unearthed until 1866 when it was found by Christopher Rowe. A paid labourer he kept his discovery hidden and escaped with a chest of radioactive coins and ‘jewels’.
Joining up with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Tours and travelled with it to London. He has been passing around his coins, accidentally leading to the death of various traders. Sherlock Holmes was following his trail, leading him to the Jubilee performance. Ezeru have also arrived, to reclaim what is theirs.
Likely Investigation Structure
- The PCs are briefed about the situation. They are despatched to 1887. Their main goal is to prevent the assassination but they are also asked to investigate the identity of Sherlock Holmes.
- In 1887 they can meet Sherlock Holmes and discover his true identity while discovering how it links to a number of curious deaths caused by radioactive coins.
- At Buffalo Bill’s Wild West they can rub shoulders with Royalty and meet notable figures such as Buffalo Bill himself and Annie Oakley. They can attempt several times to prevent Ezeru from killing or replacing Royalty.
- Learning that stolen Ezeru coins are responsible they can investigate the Money Pit to work out where they came from.
- Discovering they were buried by Captain Kidd they travel back to 1698 to join his crew and find out where the Armenian merchants found them.
- With the location of the Ezeru in Bengal the PCs can wipe out this infestation once and for all.
Holmes is exactly as the PCs might imagine him from the books. Aristocratic with an amazing capacity for deductive reasoning. His knowledge borders on encyclopaedic on most subjects. He fond of his violin and recreational drugs, occasionally plunging into a dark depression.
His purpose is to act as a guide and helpful NPC but will never steal the limelight. He’ll either give PCs a lead or concur with their own deductions. They must always be given the chance to come to their own conclusions, even if it is under Holmes’ watchful eyes.
The one thing he can’t help them with is the question of his own existence. One of the dangers of Chronal Instability is being subsumed. Such was the fate that befell TimeWatch agent Benedict Brett, assigned to investigate a serious of unusual deaths connected with Captain Kidd in the 17th century. The trail led him to 1881 when Chronal Instability eventually overcame him.
The universe crafted a new identity, one that would not disrupt time. He became Sherlock Holmes, took up residence in 221B Baker Street, befriended a Doctor John Watson (there are many John Watsons in London) and solved a number of cases that weren’t too dissimilar from those that Arthur Conan Doyle would later write.
The existence of a real Sherlock Holmes will have little impact on history. A worrying number of people in the original timeline believed him to be real anyway.His investigative instincts are still sharp and coupled with his subconscious knowledge of future events he continues to oppose those who would attempt to disrupt time.
PCs who spend time in his presence may notice that he lets slip anachronistic statements or reveals insight into things he should have no knowledge regarding. If challenged he suggests he gathered the information from observation of the PCs, overheard it or that it was a matter of deduction. Falsehood detection or Notice reveals Holmes doesn’t know how he came by the information.
If the PCs time travel back along his time line they find that before 1881 he didn’t exist. Mrs Hudson and John Watson can confirm that they didn’t meet or hear about him prior to this. There are no documents that prove he existed and characters such as Mycroft Holmes don’t exist either.
Pin-pointing the date of his arrival the PCs can witness him appear in Baker street, his TimeWatch uniform and Autochron vanishing, being replaced with his Victorian garb.
If they work out his true nature they can use Reality Anchor points to help him recover. Benedict will continue to slip into his Holmes identity, something that he quite enjoyed. He’ll appeal to TimeWatch to allow him to continue living as his alter-ego, working undercover in the 19th century.
CHRISTOPHER ROWE, THE BURNT MAN
From a young age Christopher loved to dig. It was only natural that he’d eventually become a labourer for the Oak Island Association, helping excavate the shaft. It was dangerous work and he nearly died when a pumping engine burst. While one man died Chris suffered burns on the left side of his body, leaving him horribly scarred.
Refusing to be beaten Christopher joined a second expedition into the money pit, this time organised by the Jupiter Company. It was then that he uncovered the chest containing the radioactive coins. He hid his discovery, recovering it when the other workers were resting and escaped.
Travelling with the Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Tours Chris worked hard but found that he was also regarded as another attraction due to his appearance. He kept to himself, spending his money on drink and woman. When his funds were low he’d dip into the curious coins.
Handling the coins makes Christopher feel unwell, which he mistakes for guilt. He always handles them with his burnt hand, the scarring reducing his exposure to some extent. He didn’t hear about the deaths of those who had handled the coins for quite some time but now believes the coins are cursed. That doesn’t stop him from using them when he gets low on funds.
PCs may travel along Christopher’s timeline to intercept the radioactive coins or find out where he got them. Chris is adept at hiding them, knowing that others will steal them. He will occasionally move them, when he is sure he isn’t being watched.
Still the PCs have the advantage of time travel to find them. This can prevent the deaths in London (and other places where he used the radioactive coins) but the Ezeru will still catch up with him on June 20th, 1887, initiating the events that will result in the death of the Royals.
THE CASE OF THE CURSED COIN
Since coming to London Christopher Rowe has used his coins 5 times. Twice with pub owners, twice with prostitutes and once with a shop owner. Each died of radiation poisoning, a red mark on their palm where they held the coin.
The police approached Sherlock Holmes to help with the investigation. It didn’t take him long to find the strange coins that each victim had in their possession, noting that it was the same size as the red marks on their hand. For safety he keeps them in a lead box.
With some research he noted similar deaths which coincided with the route of Wild Bill’s Wild West Tour. Coupled with the description of a man with burns on half of his body he believes the culprit will be at the performance. He plans to slip away from the audience and find Rowe and his coins.
If the PCs travel back in time far enough they may help Holmes in his investigation. This will require questioning witnesses, doing research about the previous deaths and making sure that the radioactive coins are dealt with properly.
The coins shouldn’t be deadly to the PCs. If exposed to them a PC will feel nausea but have the chance to either get rid of the coin or seek treatment. A Tether could also automatically report the presence of radiation, ensuring that they keep their distance.
You may also decide that the intensity of the radiation varies, so that it only proves lethal to those who handle it for prolong periods.
BUFFALO BILL’S WILD WEST TOUR
The location for the assassination is Earls Court Exhibition Centre in London. The area had been a waste ground until the development two underground stations nearby created the idea of turning it into a place for entertainment. To coincide with the Queen’s Jubilee a variety of country-themed exhibitions were held, the latest of which is the American Exhibition, with Buffalo Bill’s Wild West as its centre piece.
Buffalo Bill is actually Colonel William Frederick Cody, gaining his nickname during the Civil War when he supplied railway workers Buffalo meat. Having served as a scout during the war he formed his own kind of circus. He is a showman, telling a version of Wild West life that would create the very myths that we remember today.
In addition to other western celebrities such as Annie Oakley and her husband Frank Butler the tour arrived in London with 201 labourers and performers, 97 Native Americans, 180 horses, 18 buffalo, 10 elk, 5 Texan steers, 4 donkeys and 2 deer.
The show itself takes around 90 minutes.
- Grand Processional Review introducing the groups and individual characters.
- Miss Annie Oakley, demonstrating her dexterity with firearms.
- Horse race between a Cowboy, a Mexican and an Indian on Spanish-Mexican Horses.
- Pony Express, with former pony post riders showing how post was delivered prior to railways and the telegraph.
- Attack on an emigrant train by Indians and repulsed by cowboys.
- Captain Jack Burtz’s lightening drill.
- Cowboy Fun including picking items up from the ground while on horseback, lassoing wild horses and riding buckers.
- Across the Country, with riders of all nations.
- Johnny Baker, a celebrated marksman.
- Russian Cossacks demonstrating feats of horsemanship and native dances.
- Racing between American Backwoods women.
- Troupe of Gauchos in feats of horsemanship, throwing the lasso and bolas.
- Capture of Deadwood Mail coach by Indians, which is rescued by Buffalo Bill and his cowboys.
- Racing between Indian boys on bareback horses.
- Life customs of the Indians.
- Colonel Cody demonstrates his sharpshooting skills (including shooting glass balls in the air).
- Buffalo hunt featuring Buffalo Bill and Indians.
- Attack on a settler’s cabin.
Before and after the show visitors can visit exhibits and meet performers and the animals.
The exhibition has been very popular but PCs should be aware that it is loud, crowded and smelly, even by the standards of 19th century London.
The weather is fine, warm with a slight breeze much as it was for all of June.
It is likely that a major part of the game will take place at the exhibition on this date. It is large enough that they can visit it multiple times and manage to avoid bumping into themselves with only minimal effort. You may wish to include some odd events or commotion coming from other areas of the exhibit that the PCs can later learn were their future selves getting into trouble.
Following someone through a crowd can be tricky but makes it harder for others to notice them. There are areas which only members of the Wild West tour can access and the PCs can expect to be challenged if they stand out, although an Impersonator mesh can solve this problem.
Further chaos could be created if someone (either the PCs, Rowe or the Ezeru) let the animals loose. A stampede of wild horses or buffalo can really throw a spanner in the works (not to mention cause further injury or death).
The PCs should always be aware they are racing against time to identify who will attempt to kill the Royals and prevent it. Each time they fail they have the option of going back to prevent it again, at the cost of instability and increasing paradoxes (for example if they witness the shooting themselves).
Tracking their stolen coins across the centuries the Ezeru got their best lead when they learnt of the strange deaths in the United States. They realised that the victims had been exposed to one of the coins and deduced that whoever had them was travelling with the Wild West Tour.
They’ve now come to London and plan to strike on the 20th of June, having spotted Christopher Rowe the night before, using one of the coins. If one of the PCs is shadowing Rowe on the 19th they may spot one of the Ezeru.
Capturing victims locally they can pass as human. The victims are held within the sewers near the docks, encased in cocoons. Once in the exhibition they seek to replace various members of the tour, so they can get closer still to Rowe and find where he has hidden the coins. Those they capture are placed in an unused storage area within the central building.
While there they become aware of the important historical figures who are gathered and come up with one of two plans. Either they will capture members of Royalty so that they can replace them and take their place to influence history or they use their disguises to take the place of performers during the Capture of the Deadwood Mail coach and kill as many important figures as they can. In the resulting confusion they then plan to reclaim the coins, kill Rowe and escape.
If they choose the first approach then either Rowe or Sherlock Holmes realises that certain members of Royalty have been replaced by monsters. They will then shoot the Ezeru. If this doesn’t kill an Ezeru they will escape, kill the captured Royal and escape, leaving the human’s to take the blame.
In either case some form of shooting still occurs, as the PCs first heard. If the PCs have studied newspaper reports from 21st of June they maybe aware of certain details, such as when the shooting is due to occur. Due to confusion the papers can’t confirm exactly who is responsible for the shooting.
If the PCs take steps that prevent the Ezeru from carrying out one of their plans they will shift to their other approach. This can result in the circumstances of the shooting changing but not the end result. The fact that the Ezeru can change identity makes this more difficult. Until the PCs realise what they are dealing with the identity of the shooter could change each time they re-attempt to prevent the assassination.
The Ezeru’s real goal is the recovery of the coins, so if they can’t carry out the assassination or given a choice between the two they will take their treasure and head back to Bengal. If not stopped or eliminated they will likely carry out their plan to initiate a nuclear conflict in the late 20th century (which the PCs be tasked with preventing at a later date).
So what happens if the Ezeru do manage to kill some Royals? The PCs shouldn’t want to find out but it isn’t anything good. Not only does it diverge the path of succession from original history it creates a wave of bad feeling amongst many countries.
Buffalo Bill’s Wild West Tour was doing wonders for British/American relations, all of which would vanish if it was thought American performers were responsible for the death of the Queen’s grandson. This could lead to another English/American war in the near future or at the very least a lack of support in upcoming conflicts.
Germany is suspicious of Britain if Wilhelm dies, especially as Queen Victoria was not present. Accusations are made and sabres are rattled. Diplomatic ties are broken and Germany becomes increasingly aggressive which has further consequences in Europe.
The next century will see a number of bloody battles with both world wars, if they occur, being much worse and leading to far greater loss of life. With the Ezeru pulling strings behind the scenes a nuclear war will occur at some point.
THE MONEY PIT
The PCs will hopefully discover that the Ezeru came to London following the trail of coins. They might decide to follow them back to the source to prevent the chain of events from ever happening or to tie up loose ends after they’ve prevented the assassinations.
Rowe can tell them where he got it, they can find his journal about taking part in the excavation or they can learn that he talked about the Money Pit to some members of the tour. This can lead them to Oak Island in Nova Scotia. Just a 140 acres and covered in trees there are many points in time they might travel to.
The pit itself is filled with charcoal, putty and coconut fibre, divided by layers of logs every ten feet. There are booby traps that trigger cave-ins and tunnels that lead off in different directions. It was discovered in 1795 by Daniel McGinnis who observed lights that led him to a circular depression, beneath which were flagstones.
The lights could either be Ezeru or possibly the PCs (maybe using their tether’s lights to search for the pit). In either case the Ezeru did leave a marker bearing symbols that have since been translated as ‘forty feet below, two million pounds lie buried’. Anthropology can recognise it as their handiwork (a language distilled and copied from the end of human history).
This was left to prompt human’s into digging up the pit. Either this was done because the Ezeru knew that if they dug it up directly their actions could be undone, while TimeWatch would have more difficulty in preventing the actions of humans native to the timezone or they only discovered the pit after they located Rowe in 1887 and travelled back in time to leave the marker (knowing that removing it earlier would create a paradox).
Various attempts to excavate it occurred, with Rowe being present for the attempt in 1861 and 1866. The PCs might travel to this point to get to the chest before Rowe can. This has its hazards, as they might stumble across booby traps or be caught in a cave-in.
They could travel further into the future, where later excavations and research can provide them with a more detailed layout of the pit. This is risky if they haven’t yet prevented the assassinations as history will be in the process of changing.
Relics, architecture and trinkets within the Money Pit all point to Captain Kidd. They may find a letter of warning with the chest (missed by Christopher Rowe in his haste to escape) which warns that the treasure is cursed. He mentions that he is sailing to New York to stand trial and regrets the day that he claimed the Adventurer’s Prize.
It should become clear that the Money Pit wasn’t somewhere to hide treasure but to prevent others from exposing themselves to radiation. The question should now be how did Captain Kidd come by the coins?
Research, History (Contemporary) and their Tether can tell them that Captain William Kidd was a notorious pirate operating from 1689 to 1699. The mention of the Adventurer’s Prize indicate that the chest was obtained on the 30th of January 1698 off the coast of India, when they took the Quedagh Merchant and renamed her.
They don’t have an exact location and they can’t just randomly time jump around the ocean. Their best approach would be to become part of Captain Kidd’s crew earlier (or at least stowaway) until they take the Quedagh Merchant. To do this they might search nearby harbours, especially those frequented by pirates.
This is an opportunity for PCs to play at being pirates, taking part in some piracy before they find their target. To be accepted by the crew they could be expected to sword-fight, sail the ship in storms or drink them under the table. During this period they can get to know Captain Kidd.
Originating from Scotland he spent his early career as a privateer, working for the English. His mission was to hunt pirates, before he became one himself. He seemed to have little luck, both in finding pirates and in having a third of his crew die from cholera.
Despite seeing himself with a certain degree of nobility he could be cruel and prone to bouts of anger (killing one of his crew with an iron bucket at one point). Those serving on his vessel can sense he is a conflicted man, with a crew who seem to be on the brink of mutiny.
The taking of the Quedagh Merchant is a good example of this. Captained by an English man, named Wright, Kidd was reluctant to take it, while his crew argued that because Wright held French passes he was an enemy of England. Eventually Kidd agreed, taking the ship as his own, but would come to regret this choice.
If the PCs are on hand they can try to influence this argument. They can also use the distraction to attempt to locate the chest containing the radioactive coins and dispose of them (though they will be in trouble if the crew notice this thievery).
They can take this opportunity to speak with the Armenian merchants to find out where they discovered the coins. The merchants are terrified so Intimidation or Reassurance can be effective here, especially if the PCs protect them from the pirates. This can give them the location of the Ezeru lair.
If the PCs stick around or join with Captain Kidd’s crew after the 30th of January they witness first hand members of the crew succumbing to radiation poisoning. The crew attempt to spend some of the treasure in ports, causing more deaths. It is these turn of events that Benedict Brett was sent to investigate before he suffered Chronal Instability.
Some of the Ezeru eggs (thought to be jewels by the crew) hatch, preying on the crew. This can lead to a literal bug hunt and is very effective if it takes place at sea, where the crew have nowhere to escape. Kidd’s previous ship, the Adventure Galley, becomes infested and sets fire to it at sea, shifting everything to the Adventurer’s Prize.
If they wish to see things through the PCs could be with Captain Kidd and his crew when they begin digging the Money Pit. The PCs could use this opportunity to set up secret passageways or clues that can help them recover the treasure in the future.
While the PCs could avoid all this by simply finding the Quedagh Merchant before it sets sail from Bengal it is suggests that this be prevented due to a lack of records indicating when and where it set off from. Joining with Captain Kidd is therefore their best chance.
BENGAL AND THE EZERU
Now the PCs know where the Ezeru are they can attempt to eliminate them. They are within the depth of an Indian jungle, far from the usual trading routes. Concealed within burrows are numerous Ezeru, waiting for their time to alter history.
PCs might want to tackle them on their own or they can call in support from TimeWatch. This can be a climatic battle, as the Ezeru awaken and defend themselves or the PCs might prefer stealth, causing a cave-in or simply stealing the radioactive coins before the merchants can find them (as long as they are prepared for the paradox that would cause).
With the Ezeru eliminated they can no longer corrupt time. PCs should be informed of their success as the original timeline is restored (at least for now). They will be commended for their thoroughness and rewarded appropriately.
For a shorter adventure remove the plot point of the radioactive coins. The Ezeru are primarily there to carry out the assassination and nothing more.
If you want to have Queen Victoria be more prominent then set it at an earlier performance when she was present.
If you don’t want to use Ezeru then the performers could have been infected by Europans.
For a more conspiratorial slant use Reptoids. Either they replace members of Royalty here or they were always Reptoids and someone (maybe Sherlock Holmes) killed them to reveal the truth. The PCs must hide the truth by preventing their deaths (and possibly removing Holmes, creating a cover story that he was fictional).
SEQUEL: THE FEATHERED SERPENT
If Sherlock Holmes remains active and/or if the PCs enjoyed the Victorian setting consider an adventure set in 1888 where they discover that at least some of the Jack the Ripper murders were committed by a Sophosaur hunter. Examination of the wounds indicate that they were caused not by a blade but a claw.
The race is on to discover the Sophosaur and end his reign of terror.